Top 10 Legal Technology Trends to See in 2023
April 27, 2023
The pandemic changed the way lawyers and law firms work together and communicate with clients. Law firms were no exception, major shifts in the legal industry towards virtual meetings and collaborative work environments. Clients want 24/7 communications, rapid responses and acknowledgments, and live updates.
To keep up with the competition and stay relevant, many “old school” law firms were put through a crash course in legal technology, administrative automation, and data security. With so many subscriptions and software options, finding the right solutions for your firm can be overwhelming and choosing the wrong solutions can be expensive.
Today, many thoughtfully packaged legal tech solutions are available to scale up your tech while considering your budget. Below are ten legal technology trends that we are seeing in 2023.
1. Increase in Legal Tech Spending
Legal technology spending may not be something you previously budgeted, at least not significantly. But today, law firms and in-house legal departments are spending more on legal technology - especially when it comes to tech that saves time, like automated time tracking, and legal document automation. Whereas legal tech was previously an ancillary duty for someone in the office - essentially a side project, it is now a front-and-center part of growth strategies.
Software and subscriptions can be expensive, especially when they are necessary for everyone working in law firms or legal departments. However, it is important to consider the time savings and reduced productivity demands that come with deploying legal technology.
In many cases, the adoption of legal practice management software can save enough time to eliminate one administrative role - for less than the cost of an administrative salary. When legal tech is used properly, productivity can increase for legal professionals, while only slightly increasing legal tech spending.
2. Automation of Legal Workflows
Many law firms have shifted to legal tech tools and practice management systems for one major reason: automation. Tasks can be completed electronically, based on data your client provides. When you have a new client, they can provide their information and verify their identity through your client software. Once you've onboarded a client, you can generate checklists for their file, prepare a conflict check template memo, draft them a welcome letter, and prepare an agenda for your first meeting, immediately and automatically. Rather than legal teams spending two hours setting up their client file, everything can be completed in a few minutes.
Automating processes like intake and onboarding must be simple, effective, and frustration-free. For example with online intake forms, your client will not be spending 30 minutes with a paralegal to verify their identity and go over all of their information, they will be spending that time on their computer or smartphone. A frustrating or ineffective intake process will leave a bad first impression, and may cause law firms to lose a client before they have even logged one billable hour.
3. Videoconferencing to Better Serve Client Needs
Prior to the pandemic, in-person meetings were the norm for law firms. Virtual meetings were not quite emerging technologies but were usually only used when necessary to accommodate someone who was unable to be in the area.
Post-pandemic, meetings over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other web video platforms are common experiences for people in the legal industry and business world. Modern law firms, corporate legal departments, and legal and compliance teams today make it standard practice to offer a video conferencing option to any client meeting.
This legal technology is popular because it is convenient, effective, and time and cost-efficient. While saving the time and cost of traveling, lawyers can meet with clients online - from just about anywhere on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. An added benefit of videoconferencing and virtual meetings is the recording and playback options. Due to the convenience and effectiveness of virtual meetings, video conferencing software is one law firm technology that's unlikely to go away.
4. The Rise of Ediscovery Platforms
By its very nature, the discovery process is a time-consuming ordeal, and there are extensive rules that govern the process. Preparing interrogatories, depositions, and requests for production can be a lengthy ordeal. While Ediscovery legal technology platforms are not perfect, legal professionals may be able to speed up the process by doing some things automatically, like time-stamping, redacting names, and other info, and removing unnecessary data.
5. Legal Documents Automation
In the past, preparing documents took many hours, and skilled lawyers would spend countless time making legal documents, often copying and pasting client information to make new documents. Basic contracts like articles of incorporation, non-disclosure agreements, trust amendments, and court filings would take hours for legal assistants, paralegals, and attorneys.
Once you switch to legal document automation, all of your client letters, documents, and forms can be automatically generated using the information you input when you onboarded your client. This increases efficiency and accuracy. Using legal technology document automation, legal professionals can avoid embarrassing and potentially expensive, reputation-damaging security breaches. The automation of legal workflows for everyone in the legal profession reduces stress and saves money and time.
6. Leverage of Artificial Intelligence
New Artificial intelligence from OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, is human-like - but it's not perfect. A.I. can do some legal industry tasks that lawyers and paralegals can do, like scanning text, finding words in documents, and gathering information. Lawyers can benefit by continuing to observe legal technology trends related to AI, and recommendations from legal sector experts and the American Bar Association.
7. Cloud Solutions
Cloud storage is not new technology, but according to the ABA "The legal profession still lags the business world in cloud usage." Thanks to the increasing use of law practice management software, law firms are using cloud storage and solutions.
In the last several years, "the Cloud" and "cloud computing" have become much more widespread among smaller law firms in the legal sector. Cloud-based database storage and document storage have the advantage of being accessible anywhere, protecting data in the event of natural disasters or even damage to computers and servers. Of course, with any cloud-based platform, cybersecurity remains crucial.
8. Virtual Legal Assistants
The pandemic normalized remote, offsite workers, and many law firms have team members that work virtually. Thanks to collaboration tools, modern law firms can share files with administrative assistants or paralegals just about anywhere. Virtual legal assistants can be valuable members of the team - from anywhere. Legal professionals can be hired on a temp basis, as contractors, or as full-time employees.
Virtual legal assistants are ideal for repetitive, simple tasks, like responding to emails, scheduling meetings, routing after-hours phone calls, or processing case evaluation requests.
Trust is paramount with anyone who has access to your files. Before you hire just anyone, consider data security, non-disclosure agreements, and confidentiality agreements. Use common sense and do not allow your virtual assistant to have full admin access to software, or solely manage access to legal services accounts or passwords.
9. Digital Signatures
Another "pandemic darling" of legal technology trends is the electronic signature or e-signature. This alternative to traditional pen and paper signatures is not new, with companies like DocuSign, HelloSign, Acrobat Sign, and Zorrosign being around for two decades. But the necessity of the pandemic accelerated and normalized e-signatures as standard legal tech. Law firms should use e-signature solutions that have strict security and features like access codes and multiparty signing.
10. Data Privacy and Cybersecurity
As law firms shift to the cloud, maintaining compliance with data security and protection is crucial. The American Bar Association has many policy initiatives related to cybersecurity, and recommends that all law firms "maintain an appropriate cybersecurity program that complies with applicable ethical and legal obligations and is tailored to the nature and scope of the organization and the data and systems to be protected.”
Like with all legal tech trends and tech tools, law firms’ administrators should stay educated and informed on industry best practices and what you can and should do to protect your business.
How Can Smokeball Help?
Ready to begin a digital transformation? If your law firm is looking to adopt new or updated legal technology to supplement your legal services, you have many options for your legal tech spending budget.
Smokeball offers turnkey solutions for law firms and legal departments, including industry-leading workflow automations, unlimited storage, and electronic signature software.
If you would like to see how we can help your law firm, contact us for a free demo today.
Legal Tech Trends: Final Thoughts
Like another tech in your life, legal tech can help you work your best and be your best. Adopting new processes can be challenging, especially when it involves unfamiliar steps. Like other investments, when you pay for and adopt new technology, there is a "payback period" before you realize your investment. It is important to select software that meets your needs and is appropriate for your firm so that your staff, clients, and spending budget reap the benefits in a timely manner.
How is technology changing the legal industry?
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